John 2:13-22 contains Jesus’ first “cleansing” of the Temple where he denounces their evil practices concerning worship of God. This is such a great example of anger used in a godly way.
This is one of the most violent reactions Jesus has. He drives out the animals. He turned over the tables of the money-changers. If you were present to witness this event where Jesus has a whip, is driving people out of the temple, chasing out sheep and oxen, overturning tables, and pouring out money, and yelling, would you think he sinned? Our definition of sin is sometimes slightly off. If we think Jesus sinned here, then we need to adjust our definition.
Sometimes anger is wrong and sinful. Sometimes anger is right and proper. Christians today need to learn that it is right to be indignant. It is right to be angry when God’s name is denied, when that which is unholy and that which is impure is taught and practiced by others. And it should be a righteous indignation in the heart and lives of God’s people.
Notice that Jesus was not overcome with anger. He was in control the entire time. Verse 15 reveals his patience. He made a whip of cords. It would have taken him time to gather the materials and to carefully braid the cords into a whip. Jesus is in control. He is not blacking out, not lashing out, not doing anything he will regret, he is thinking his actions through.
Whips in that time were braided to make a handle. Jesus, being a man used to working with his hands, could make this whip quickly but still would have taken perhaps five to ten minutes. At this time, I imagine Jesus fuming and watching the Temple’s business, the source of his anger. In my imagination, Jesus is considering what he is going to do and thinking how it needs to be done. The fact that he braided the whip shows his patience and self-control.
Anger is a dangerous emotion because it risks overtaking us and shutting off our conscious reasoning. But that does not mean anger itself is sin. God gets angry and so does Jesus. Anger is good when done in the proper way, in proper measure, for the proper reason.
[Eph 4:26-27 ESV] 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Are there times when you should make a scene out of anger? Yes. They are few and far between, but yes. Most often people are controlled by their anger, angry at the wrong thing, or too afraid to do anything. But there are times for a public demonstration of anger. Worship being abused is one of them. This is the appropriate response when we see worship become for-profit business.
I know for myself, when I find something that stirs up anger it is important not to react then and there. I take time to step back from the scene, think things through, and often ask my wife or friends if I am overreacting. And often, if it is a silly reason to be mad, doing something else will calm you down. As a kid I was taught to hold your breath and count to ten. Jesus certainly did a version of that when he made the whip, but after calming himself he found his anger to be justified and he needed to act.
Anger isn’t sin, but it is an “opportunity to the devil.” So we must be cautious and self-controlled in our anger.